1940s Vega Profundo

The dreadnought is the most common acoustic body type produced today, but when it was first created, it represented the peak of guitar design in a startlingly large body. Martin produced the first dreadnought guitars in 1931 as 12-fret Hawaiian-style instruments, but the design really hit its stride in 1934 with the introduction of 14-fret Spanish models. Other manufacturers were quick to catch on, and by the end of the decade, Gibson, Epiphone and Regal were all building guitars that approximated Martin’s design. Vega joined the club as well, introducing its Profundo model by 1939.

Vega had been building guitars for over half a century at that point, even longer than they had been making the banjos for which they were better known. Early Vega guitars were mostly typical of the concert and auditorium-sized instruments that dominated the guitar world, though the company did experiment with arched bodies and f-holes in the days before modern archtops took off. The Profundo represented a significant step forward; it was the largest flat-top guitar in the Vega catalog, and its art deco styling finally caught up with the company’s archtop line. If it wasn’t revolutionary, the Profundo at least offered some competition to Martin and Gibson.

In fact, the Profundo offered something notably different to those brands, but it wasn’t obvious from the outside. The top was ladder braced, a tried and true design that Vega had used for decades and never actually abandoned until the company was purchased by Martin in 1970. Nowadays, ladder bracing is often associated with cheap pre-War guitars; the bracing itself isn’t a cut-corner construction method, but it’s strongly associated with budget-level manufacturers that saw no incentive to change. As Gibson and Martin gradually made X-bracing the standard, their sound became associated with more “refined” instruments. As the Profundo (and other examples) amply demonstrate, ladder bracing does not automatically create a sub-par sound. It does, however, create a noticeably different sound to X-bracing, which is why the Profundo has an accentuated bassy thump and somewhat limited sustain compared to the Gibson and Martin equivalents. Its booming attack makes it an excellent for jazz comping or bluegrass picking, though fingerpickers may find more bass than they’re accustomed to.

The first Profundos were built with rosewood backs and sides, as noted in the 1939 catalog. Few were built this way, as Vega switched to mahogany within a short time. This guitar’s mahogany back, diamond inlays and striped headstock veneer mark it as an early 1940s instrument; by the end of that decade, Vega switched to rectangular fret markers and a more mundane headstock. The Profundo was built at least until the mid 1950s, though the early examples are the most prized either for their rosewood backs or striking headstock veneers. The quality of construction was uniformly high, and the Profundo shared a number of features with Vega’s acoustic archtops such as a two-piece metal neck reinforcement and a floating pickguard. This last feature was rather unusual on a flat-top guitar, and the thinking was that it would allow the top to vibrate more freely. In practice, many of the pickguards warped over the years and were often removed and lost. Many Profundos now sport non-original, glued-on pickguards as a result.

This guitar is all original except for the tuner buttons (the originals crumbled, as often happens with old plastic). The neck has been reset, but otherwise there has been no damage or repairs.